Forwards Coach Jonathan Humphreys admitted to a feeling of disappointment in the dressing room after the Ospreys suffered a last gasp defeat in Treviso on Sunday afternoon, but he insisted that he couldn't ask for any more off a team that "ran out of petrol" at the end, as he put it.
The Ospreys had been in the driving seat after nine points from the boot of Dan Biggar and a try from Tom Isaacs just before the hour mark had put them 14-3 ahead, only for Treviso to snatch an unlikely win with two tries in the dying minutes to ensure the region’s European campaign, which has provided so many positives over the last three months, ended on a downbeat note.
However, Humphreys was accentuating the positives when he spoke to the press minutes after the final whistle. Asked was he disappointed, Humphreys commented:
“We’re disappointed because it was a game we controlled for large periods. The last 10 minutes or so we found ourselves under a fair amount of pressure, and fair does to Treviso, they were able to score a couple of tries. They’ve lost so many games in the last couple of minutes when they maybe deserved more and on this occasions they hung on in there and managed to steal the win in the end. That’s rugby.
“We’ve got so many young players involved at the moment, playing week in, week out. They brought a fair amount of power off the bench in the final quarter, and they were able to exert some pressure on us, particularly at scrum time. I think that was the difference.
“You can only ask so much of people. Young men have come into this team and performed extremely well. You’ve got James King out there, he had a stinger on his shoulder and couldn’t push in the scrum so we’ve moved him to six, but he was outstanding, absolutely outstanding. So was Lloyd Peers, so was Sam Lewis. You’ve got Ben John who’s a centre and has been playing Premiership rugby for Aberavon and he’s on the wing here and I thought he was outstanding today.
“These boys have exceeded our expectations this season, markedly, and so to talk about disappointment is wrong. Yes, in the last five minutes the game slipped away, so of course we are disappointed to have lost a game of rugby. But, are we disappointed with the effort of the players? Are we disappointed that the process was wrong? No, we are not. We just didn’t have enough at the end to see the game out.
“Many teams have come here fully loaded, at full strength, have struggled here. I thought we did extremely well for most of the game, and we deserved to be where we were going into the final 10, but we didn’t quite have enough to see it through.
“We were fine up to sixty minutes or so but we just lacked the power at the end. We couldn’t bring Goughy on because he’d picked up a calf strain warming up on the sidelines during the first half which just about sums up this campaign for us, and we are then shuffling people around to protect James King and his shoulder. Look, we just ran out of petrol. We just lacked firepower in the end. I could jump up and down but no, I’m not doing that. They gave as much as they could give.”
Reflecting on this season’s Heineken Cup as a whole, and what the early exit means for the Ospreys, Humphreys remained upbeat, but had a word of caution about the future.
“It’s been a positive campaign for us in many, many respects” he insisted.
“We’ve introduced a lot of young players, who’ve played so much of this European campaign, so I think this will benefit us in the long term. There’s been a little bit of pain along the way, but day’s like today are as much a test of character as we had going to Toulouse in difficult circumstances.
“I think it speaks volumes that you’ve got a dressing room with a lot of young players that are very, very disappointed this afternoon. It’s all well and good taking the plaudits when they perform well against Toulouse or Leicester, but they have to learn how to deal with the disappointment of days like today and use this to help them to continue developing, so that next season we can be stronger as a group.
“The Heineken Cup is an extremely tough competition. It’s a harsh, difficult place at the best of times as we’ve found out over the last week. You look at our pool and you can see just how competitive it’s been. Leicester have won the pool but they’ve got the lowest points total of any winning team, and then you’ve got Toulouse with a budget that’s what, three, four times ours and they failed to pick up even a best runner-up place. It’s absolutely brutal.
“Look at some of the teams that have dropped to the Amlin with Toulouse. Biarritz, Leinster, who’ve won three of the last four Heineken Cups, Racing Metro, who have an enormous budget finished third in their pool. What about Northampton? That is what we are up against. You can’t judge a season entirely on whether you reach the last eight of the Heineken Cup or not, because if that’s all you judge on then there are clubs with a lot more clout than us who’ve failed, and you aren’t being realistic about where we are right now.
“With an Ospreys team, you know that whoever is in the shirt they will give absolutely everything for the cause and they’ll leave nothing out on the field. We are proud of our development record, and we genuinely believe we are heading in the right direction, regardless of how this game ended. But, we can’t do it on our own. The Welsh teams have the lowest funding of any in this competition.
“We need to find a way to increase revenues, because competitive regions has to be beneficial to the national cause in Wales.”